Why the Portland Trail Blazers Won’t Make the Playoffs
It’s been nearly a month since the Portland Trail Blazers lost a basketball game. Let that sink in for a moment. December 2 saw the Blazers lose by 20 on the road to the Spurs. Since then, the young team has rolled off 13 straight victories.
It was thought that Portland would still be rebuilding this season, even before they received word that number one draft pick Greg Oden would be lost for all 82 to a knee injury. That hasn’t been the case, as the team is currently in seventh place in the Western Conference, ahead of Golden State, Houston and Utah.
To be very honest, I have seen the Blazers play only two or three times this season. Because no one expected them to win many games, the only nationally televised games they have usually involve the centers that the NBA wants to hype against Oden or the matchups against Kevin Durant. As such, I haven’t been able to sit down and form an opinion about the team or judge its current play.
I hear from everywhere that Brandon Roy has emerged as a potential All-Star and that LaMarcus Aldridge is a leading candidate for Most Improved Player. I’ve always respected Nate McMillan’s coaching skills, so I can believe that he’s got his squad playing near its full potential. However, I have a very hard time believing that they’ll be able to keep playing at this level and make the playoffs. A few reasons why:
1. They’re in the Western Conference. They’re going to have to keep playing and winning against some very quality competition. The Blazers have yet to play the Lakers and the Suns, and they have to lace them up against the rest of the West’s elite.
2. The Rockets, Jazz and Warriors will not continue to play horribly. Presumably. Two teams are going to get left out of the playoffs unless New Orleans experiences some sort of late-season collapse. When it comes to the end of the season, I have to give the edge to veteran teams that have been there and done that.
3. The Blazers are still the Blazers. All surprises aside, the team was 5-12 before this streak started. Although it’s possible that they flipped a switch and figured everything out, it’s more likely that they’re just on a hot streak and they’ll cool off as the season goes along.
4. Of the 13 wins, 10 have come at home. Before this streak, the Blazers were winless on the road. 10 of their next 12 games are on the road, including tonight’s game in Utah. Not only do I see the streak ending tonight against the Jazz, who are due for a win against Portland, I think there is a slump coming on.
I’m sure I’ll be labeled as a Blazers hater for saying these things, but that’s not the case. I think the team has some exciting young players and vast potential. Next season, after they’ve had a year of experience and Oden has returned from injury, I would expect the team to take a huge step forward.
Until then, tune in to the Blazer games that you can see on television and watch as they start their maturation process. Just realize that the team you’re watching is built for the future.